The involvement of the Russians in assisting Israel in recovering the remains of a soldier lost in action for 37 years was unveiled on Thursday, including help from President Vladimir Putin himself. “Two years ago I turned to you with a personal request—that you help us in finding the remains of the soldiers, including Zachary Baumel, out of the great shared values of comrades-in-arms and fellowship of soldiers,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told Putin during a visit to Moscow.
“You responded immediately. You said that you would act personally. You called on your people who did exceptional work and several days ago, you brought us the late Zachary Baumel, to Israel.”
Baumel was lost during the First Lebanon War in 1982. Baumel went missing in a battle with the Syrians in Lebanon, two of Israel’s most hardened enemies. However, in recent years the Syrian civil war has opened that country to a wide range of other nations battling terrorism or taking sides in the Syrian conflict, including the Russians.
Netanyahu, in the comments released by his office, was effusive in his gratefulness to Moscow for their assistance. “You have just now expressed the supreme value that you and the Russian people ascribe to finding the missing and bringing soldiers to burial. This is our common value,” the Israeli leader told Putin.
While Netanyahu kept the full Russian involvement vague, he was able to give some additional insights in his comments with Baumel’s family, which he recapped to Putin on Thursday. “As I told them of your decision and about the fact that Russian soldiers took actions, sometimes at personal risk, they were open-mouthed and asked me to convey their deepest gratitude which is shared by all Israelis,” said Netanyahu.
Putin, in comments published by the Kremlin website, noted that their “military personnel and their Syrian partners helped find Zachary’s remains.”
Said Putin, “We are glad that he will receive proper military honors in his homeland. Another, purely humanitarian aspect of this case is that Zachary’s family will be able to bring flowers to his grave.”
The Russian involvement continued on Thursday. In a ceremony, the Russian Defense Ministry presented Netanyahu with the remains of Baumel’s personal effects, noted an Israeli press release. An Israeli flag was placed on the casket carrying the effects and the Russian Defense Ministry orchestra played a requiem for the occasion. The Israeli flag was folded by the Russian honor guard and given to Netanyahu.
“This emotional day, and this moving ceremony, give further expression to the special bond between the Russian people and the Jewish people,” said Netanyahu at the ceremony in comments released by his office.
“…It warms the heart to see the partnership of values, of honoring soldiers, of the fellowship of soldiers, of comrades-in-arms, and the important principle of never leaving anyone behind.”
IDF Lt. Col. Jonathan Conricus took to Twitter to express his thoughts on the recovery of Baumel. “Sometimes, as a military spokesperson, you also bring good news. Honored to be part of a military that doesn’t leave a stone unturned in the relentless quest to return its missing,” he tweeted along with a repost of an IDF Twitter feed video describing Baumel’s story.
Sgt. 1st Class Baumel, an American-Israeli born in Brooklyn, was captured at the Battle of Sultan Yacoub—one of five Israeli soldiers who went missing in the fight. Two, Yehuda Katz and Zvi Feldman, remain missing.
37 years later, Sgt. Baumel was scheduled to be buried in Israel on Thursday. Incredibly, his family can thank the President of Russia for helping make that happen.
(By Joshua Spurlock, www.themideastupdate.com, April 4, 2019)